How the main parties compare on the six most important policy issues

Houses Of Parliament

Labour

NHS

An extra £2.5bn in funding for the NHS over the next five years, to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 3,000 midwives and 8,000 GPs. Repeal the Health and Social Care Act and cap the amount of profit private firms can make from the NHS at 5%. Also wants further integration between the NHS and social care services.

Economy

Balance the books by cutting the deficit every year, with a surplus on the current budget, and national debt falling in the next parliament. Reintroduce the 50% top rate of income tax for people earning more than £150,000, and the 10% starting rate. No rise in VAT, national insurance or basic and higher rates of income tax. Introduce a “mansion tax” on houses worth more than £2m.

Welfare

Guaranteed jobs for under-25s who have been unemployed for more than a year, and for older people who have been unemployed for over two years. The “bedroom tax” to be scrapped. Tax credits to rise in line with inflation from next year.

Housing

Build 200,000 homes a year by 2020. Guarantee three-year tenancy agreements in the private sector and limit year-on-year rent increases during those periods to the rate of inflation. Ban unfair letting agent fees, which it claims will also save renters more than £600.

Education

Protect primary and secondary education budget so it rises in line with inflation but not in line with an increase in pupils numbers. Cut university tuition fees to £6,000 a year. Ensure all parents of children of a primary school age have access to childcare from 8am to 6pm. Cap class sizes at 30 for 5, 6 and 7-year-olds.

Transport

Allow a public sector operator to bid for rail franchises. Freeze rail fares next year and cap rises after that. Support HS2. Give cities and regions London-style powers to regulate bus services.

Conservatives

NHS

Increase NHS spending in England by £8bn above inflation over the next five years through careful management of the economy and increased tax receipts. Seven-day access to GPs by 2020 and same-day appointments for over-75s when needed. Further integration of NHS and social care, like Labour.

Economy

Eliminate the deficit and run an overall surplus by the end of the parliament. Raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500 and the 40% tax threshold to £50,000. Increase the level of inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m.

Welfare

Make a £12bn saving on welfare. Maintain the freeze in working-age benefits for two years. Cut the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year. Replace jobseeker’s allowance for 18- to 21-year-olds with a youth allowance limited to six months, and end housing benefit for those in this age group.

Housing

Extend the “right to buy” to 1.3m housing association homes in England. Provide for 200,000 homes to be built for first-time buyers under 40, offered for sale with a 20% discount. New help-to-buy Isas for first-time buyers to help them save a deposit for a house. Invest in the regeneration of brownfield sites.

Education

Maintain school funding per pupil but not increase it in line with inflation. Create at least a further 500 free schools in England by 2020. Offer 30 hours of free childcare a week for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

Transport

A programme of road investment and the construction of 850 miles of electrified railways. Reform strike laws, including on the transport network. Start work on HS2.

Liberal Democrats

NHS

Increase real-terms NHS funding by at least £8bn by 2020, starting with an extra £1bn a year until 2018. Integrate health and social care budgets and provide £3.5bn extra for mental health.

Economy

Pay off deficit by 2017-18 with a mixture of spending cuts and tax increases. Raise the personal allowance to £12,500. Raise up to £1.5bn from a “mansion” tax on homes worth more than £2m. Increase public sector pay so that, for example, a nurse on £25,000 would see a minimum pay increase of £350.

Welfare

Cap benefit rise at 1% a year for two years. Scrap the “bedroom tax” unless the claimant has turned down a reasonable alternative property. Bring in a carer’s bonus of £250 a year by 2020. Expand parental leave with a “use it or lose it” month for fathers. Link increases in the minimum wage to economic growth. Encourage the payment of the living wage to public sector employees.

Housing

Increase housebuilding programmes to 300,000 homes a year. Start building at least 10 Garden Cities. Encourage landlords to lower rents by paying housing benefit directly to them in return for a fixed reduction.

Education

Guarantee properly qualified teachers, a core curriculum and sex education in all state schools. Protect the budget for two- to 19-year-olds from inflation and any rise in the number of pupils. Fund free childcare for 15 hours a week. Set a goal of eradicating child illiteracy and innumeracy by 2025.

Transport

Give 16- to 21-year-olds a two-thirds discount onall bus travel. Oppose the expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick, or a new airport in the Thames estuary. Electrify all suburban and major rail routes.

SNP

NHS

Back increase in NHS spending across UK of an additional £9.5bn. SNP MPs will vote against what they describe as the further privatisation of the NHS in England. They will also seek exemption for the NHS from the terms of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Economy

Increase public spending by 0.5% a year, enabling £140bn extra investment. Increase the minimum wage to £8.70 by 2020. Restore the 50p top rate pf income tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 and reverse the married couple’s tax allowance. I

Welfare

Oppose plans for further cuts in child benefit and tax credits. Increase child benefit, disability benefits and tax credits in line with the cost of living. Immediately abolish the “bedroom tax”. Mitigate for Scotland any cuts to welfare made by the UK government.

Housing

This is not a devolved area. The SNP encourages local authorities to build council housing. They have scrapped “right to buy” in Scotland. Will encourage the government to build 100,000 affordable homes across the UK every year.

Education

Continue free university education in Scotland andchampion the reduction of tuition fees across the UK. Offer 30 hours a week of free nursery education for all three- and four-year-olds, and eligible two-year-olds.

Transport

Connect Scotland to HS2, with constructionbeginning in Scotland as well as England. Build a high-speed rail connection between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the north of England.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Daniel Boffey, for The Observer on Sunday 3rd May 2015 07.00 Europe/London

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